The world’s largest, most powerful SpaceX rocket caused some serious mayhem during its first launch.
SpaceX’s massive fully-integrated Starship launch vehicle lifted off from SpaceX’s Starbase test facility in Boca Chica, Texas on April 20 at 9:33 a.m. EDT (1333 GMT; 8:33 a.m. local Texas time).
Starship then flew for just over four minutes on its first orbital test flight — complete with somersaults — before automated systems initiated a destructive abort procedure and caused the rocket to explode.
The success of Starship even clearing its launch tower indicates significant headway for SpaceX, which is known for sometimes destroying its vehicle prototypes in the name of progress.
In SpaceX’s infancy, CEO Elon Musk could be seen strolling through fields of fallen rocket debris(opens in new tab), but there’s no chance anyone will be traversing the scope of what Starship left behind without at least a helicopter. Dust and debris from the launch were sent flying, sometimes for miles, creating concerns for some local residents.
One resident of Port Isabel, Texas, just 6 miles north of Starbase, called the noise and debris created by the launch “truly terrifying,” the New York Times reported(opens in new tab).
Other Port Isabel residents reported broken windows, and some described it as “like a mini earthquake.” NPR journalist Pablo De La Rosa also posted reports(opens in new tab) of particles from Starship’s launch raining down on residents.
According to a City of Port Isabel Facebook post(opens in new tab), it has been confirmed that the spray of Starship detritus that covered locals’ cars and homes posed no health risk and was in fact sand and dust lofted airborne and thrown miles in every direction by the rocket’s liftoff.
In close proximity to the launch site, the force generated by the 33 engines of Starship’s main booster resulted in a significant impact, leaving a visible crater in the concrete.
The debris generated from the launch, some of which were of substantial size, was propelled in various directions, posing a potential risk, with reports indicating that it was capable of damaging a car. While the launch tower remained intact, extensive cleanup efforts are required to restore the launch complex to its previous state.
Photographic evidence from RGV Aerial Photography and Spaceflight Now reveals scattered construction materials and remnants from previous Starship builds scattered throughout the surrounding area.
Additionally, a VR video shared on Twitter by user @LabPadre, and later expanded by DaneWang, depicted a NASA Spaceflight van being affected by the flying debris, resulting in damage to the vehicle. These instances highlight the need for diligent cleanup and safety measures following the launch.
imilar to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, SpaceX’s Starbase complex is located on a national wildlife refuge that supports a diverse range of plant and animal species, numbering over 2,500.
These wildlife areas serve as suitable locations for spaceport activities because rocket launches require ample space to adhere to safety regulations, and the measures implemented during launches largely mitigate any potential adverse effects on local flora and fauna.
In fact, prior to Starship’s inaugural launch, SpaceX received a 183-page environmental safety notice from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This document outlined more than 75 mitigative steps that the company needed to undertake in order to ensure the granting of Starship’s launch license.
These measures were put in place to address and minimize any potential environmental impacts and ensure the safety of the surrounding area.
“Now, with a whole town covered in rocket launch remnants, some residents of South Texas are questioning the impact Starship will have on its surroundings. Even before Starship got off the ground, a group of Rio Grande Valley residents and organizations expressed their opposition to SpaceX’s activities in the area.
They claim that SpaceX is harming wildlife refuges and sacred lands of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas and posing explosion risks to Rio Grande Valley communities.”
Despite these concerns, Elon Musk has announced that the company is targeting another launch of a fully integrated Starship within the next “1 to 2 months.”
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